In Upper Nile State, South Sudan, women and girls make up 52% of the refugee population. Spread across four camps, these women and girls are particularly vulnerable to gender-based violence (GBV) and disenfranchisement. As the lead protection agency in Maban County, and the managers of Doro and Yusif Batil Refugee Camps, the Danish Refugee Council has begun a campaign to reduce physical and psychological abuse of women. This includes raising awareness about gender–based violence and inequality, as well as empowering women on issues related to their well-being and that of their families.
On March 8, DRC coordinated the celebration of International Women's Day which coincided with the opening of a brand new women's center in Yusuf Batil Refugee Camp. The occasion was marked with drama, singing, and speeches given by representatives of the women's committees established and supported by DRC. Women were encouraged to stand up for their rights, send their daughters to school, and resist early marriage. Activities in the new women's center will include income-generating projects such as sewing and bead-making. Without an income, women are often coerced into sexually exploitative relationships or forced to remain in abusive marriages. Such incidents are common in refugee camps where social safety nets have been disrupted.
In Doro, over 4,000 individuals joined the celebration of International Women's Day, commemorated by a parade and presentations from adolescent girls. Building on the foundation of last year's global 16 Days of Activism Campaign, the event proved to be a significant recognition of women's rights among all 23 communities living in Doro.
In addition to the festivities, debates on gender inequality were held in both camps. The discussions shed light on the fact that women and men traditionally have not enjoyed equal rights. However, participants agreed that this needs to change. One man noted, “Men should help their wives when they are tired. I help my wife with the children when she is grinding the sorghum.” Such dialogue is a positive indicator that relations between men and women are improving in the camps.
DRC plans to continue empowering women across Maban. Through the ongoing establishment and training of community groups, such as Community Watch and SGBV focal points, violence against women can be eradicated.
Upon the 2005 Sudanese Comprehensive Peace Agreement, DRC started operating in the southern part of Sudan. South Sudan gained its independence in July 2011 – and thus is the world's newest nation. When thousands of refugees fled Blue Nile to South Sudan in May 2012, DRC became an active relief partner in Maban County. DRC currently operates in six out of South Sudan's ten states and are managing three refugee camps in the country.